PHARMACY

Democrats unveil comprehensive healthcare reform bill; industry responds with mixed reviews

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Democrats in the House unveiled a comprehensive healthcare reform bill Tuesday designed to fill the gap that has left nearly 50 million Americans without health coverage.

Dubbed the America’s Affordable Health Care Choice of 2009, the bill will be debated in committee this week, according to the Associated Press, but has already attracted comments from industry organizations, including those representing retailers.

The bill would penalize employers that don’t buy health insurance for employees — exempting small businesses — as well as individuals who refuse to buy it for themselves, but would ban health insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions while allowing the government to sell insurance. It would also provide assistance for poor people, financed in part through a tax of 1%, to 5.4% on people making $350,000 or more per year and large cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

The bill got mixed responses from industry groups. The National Community Pharmacists Association, while saying the bill would require additional review, praised provisions that would begin to reform the way pharmacists are reimbursed for generic drugs dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Community pharmacists play a critical role in the healthcare system,” National Community Pharmacists Association EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts said in a statement. “NCPA is committed to ensuring that any health reform legislation does two things: First, it should utilize medication therapy management and other pharmacist-delivered healthcare services to improve patient outcomes and reduce overall costs, such as from improper medication use; second, and more importantly, Congress should assure that there is a viable community pharmacy infrastructure to deliver quality health care to millions of patients across America.”

Other organizations have strongly criticized the measure’s provisions.

In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, 31 business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, strongly criticized the bill.

“Exempting some micro-businesses will not prevent this provision from killing many jobs,” AP quoted the letter as saying. “Congress should allow market forces and employer autonomy to determine what benefits employers provide, rather than deciding by fiat.”

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Sandoz launches a generic version of Vantin

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. Generic drug maker Sandoz has launched a version of an oral antibiotic.

The company, a division of Swiss drug maker Novartis, announced the launch of cefpodoxime proxetil oral suspension in the 50 mg per 5 mL and 100 mg per 5 mL strengths, used to treat such mild to moderate infections caused by Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria as ear infections, sore throats and sinusitis.

The drug is a generic version of Pfizer’s Vantin. Branded and generic formulations of cefpodoxime proxetil oral suspension were about $4 million in the 12 months ended in April, according to IMS Health data.

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OSI Pharmaceuticals, Genentech announce results of Tarceva trial

BY Alaric DeArment

MELVILLE, N.Y. A drug used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancers extended the survival of patients with advanced NSCLC taking it immediately after chemotherapy, according to results of a late-stage clinical study.

OSI Pharmaceuticals and Genentech announced the results of a phase 3 trial of Tarceva (erlotinib), which they will present at the 13th World Congress on Lung Cancer, on Aug. 4 in San Francisco.

“This study has now not only confirmed that immediate treatment of Tarceva after initial chemotherapy delayed the progression of disease, but also importantly helped patients in the study live longer,” principal investigator Federico Cappuzzo of the Instituto Clinico Humanitas IRCCS in Milan, Italy, said. “This is good news for doctors and their patients, since advanced lung cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat and is often associated with a very short life expectancy.”

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